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Recording “Letters” with Butch Walker

Recording Butch Walker Letters

The best records you make as a Music Producer are always the easiest to make. Butch Walker’s “Letters” was one such record.

“Letters” started with me getting out of the house and visiting my friend Butch In Little 5 Points in Atlanta. I went to drink Wine and hang out with Butch. Then he played me the demo to the song “Mixtape” and we decided a good way to spend the weekend would be to drink wine and do this song.

Butch had a ton of awesome gear setup already in his tiny guesthouse. We cut the first version of Mixtape tracking the drums in the little 8 by 8 bedroom in his guest house. We later re-recorded the drums at Belmont studio in Nashville. I played keys, some background vocals and percussion while Butch was his awesome self being Butch. We weren’t thinking about record sales or a deal, we were just having fun……so of course Sony picked it up.

Jim Ebert & Butch Walker

By the time the deal was done and all was well with the world, Butch had built a small studio in Little 5 points (I believe) and we commenced to making the record. We tracked everything 1n 9 or 10 days and mixed it in about the same amount of time. No over-thinking, no drama, just making music. No vocal tuning, a bit of drum editing on loop based songs but not much on anything else. Vocals were usually one or two takes with a couple of punches. We were just aiming at the soul of the song and perfection would be a bonus.

The players involved were perfect for the project. For me, Kenny Cresswell playing drums was amazing on that record. Great feel and great sense of humor playing and personality wise. This record was recorded so fast, we we’re a little bummed and surprised when it was done. Thinking we had just made the next greatest record ever, we were a bit bummed when Sony said they had no Idea what to do with it.

I thought, (like I had thought so many times before with records I had been involved with, but much stronger with “Letters”) just market it you dumb-asses . That never happened.

There is a core audience that loves this record, and as a producer I have gotten more work production work out of this record than any other. If you don’t have “Letters” you should get it… Jim

 
 

Music Producer Jim Ebert – Recording “Letters” with Butch Walker

Music Submissions and Demo Recordings

“Hey Jim, when I send you my music demo recordings, how evolved does the recording need to be?”

music-submissionWell, when I receive Music Submissions, I personally prefer the acoustic guitar or piano version of the song. This way I can hear the vocals, melody, chord structure and song arrangement. Then we can talk about the direction of the production.

A cell phone recording is fine with me for this purpose. It’s fine when bands or artists make their own multi-track recording, but that usually takes weeks longer to put together.

The other issue with multi-track demo solicitation is, you may get married to the demo. This can be both good and bad. Good if you created something awesome and we can use it. Bad if you created something not awesome and you can’t hear the song any other way.

Another reason I prefer a basic version is, you brought it to me so we can take your idea to the next level. The next level sonically and artistically. We will best achieve this from the ground up. If I am producing your project from tracking to Mixing, I am going to use the best recording equipment available e.g. Microphones, pre-amps, outboard gear and recording software. This will insure your idea reaches maximum sonic level.

As a Music Producer, I prefer to start with the song idea at it’s most basic level. The melody, chord progression and lyrics need to stand on their own. Let’s get this nailed down in pre production and then build the song out from there. I might have some ideas that you haven’t considered and you might have some ideas that we need to explore.
My experience will guide us through this process in a productive and efficient manner.

Other times a more established band will have recorded tracks for a demo with the intent to turn it into a master. We will have discussed this in preproduction and we would re-cut any tracks that are not sonically relevant. Again, we would have established the musical direction before I accepted the project.

Hope this helps, Jim Ebert
 
 

Tales From The Vault #2

Music Producer Stories from Jim Ebert

Back in the 90s, I produced a song called “Hooch” by the band Everything. I was living in Los Angeles at the time and myself and the band were trying figure out where to record the album. The budget was ok but by no means a 90’s label budget. At the time, the band lived on a farm property which had an old, brick ,large mainhouse that was vacant. The house was a couple hundred years old and had a ton of charm. We worked a deal out with the property owner to rent the house for a month to record the album.

Then we went to work, somehow I rented a package from an LA rental company, which included: A studer 827 24 track, 10 API mic pres,2 la2a’s, 2 1176’s, an Elam 251, 2 akg 414’s, A bunch of hooch-by-everythingSennheiser and Shure Studer-a827-24-trackMics, Cabling, Snakes, and other stuff. I brought pro tools and a few instruments, the bands friends bought a console to monitor with and after 2 days of wiring, we had a studio.

As far as tracking, all the rooms in the house sounded different. We would set the drums up in one room and see what song fit that drum sound. So, we recorded drums in several different rooms. The drum loop for Hooch was recorded in the servant’s quarters(200 year old house) with 2 shure 57’s straight to a cassette deck then dropped into pro-tools for arrangement. The background vocals were recorded on the back porch after trying several other options. The only expensive mic we used was the Elam 251 for lead vocals. The rest of the mic’s were mainly 57’s.

All of this was a lot of fun and work and really made possible who rented me everything for 7k and that covered shipping for all the gear as well. This made it possible to expand our timeline from 2 weeks to 5 weeks to record the record.

It takes time to make records, to look at options sonically and musically,emotionally,
This was a magic time in my carreer and my liver will never forget it.

Music Producer Jim Ebert